I have been blessed with an amazing brotherhood of church planters in St. Louis. We are learning together how to be vulnerable, how to be gracious, and how to encourage one another. We aren’t willing to settle for just being “OK” or “fine.” In our network, we call ‘fine’ the “f-word.”
I have a feeling that there are a lot of church planters out there who are just doing fine. But if everyone is just OK, then no one is really OK. We can do so much better than fine. And since I only get one shot at this, I am completely unwilling to settle with fine.
For that reason, we can’t do this by ourselves. Church planting is hard, and we can’t do it by ourselves. Here are three myths I want to uncover about brotherhood.
1. You have to find people who are in the same place as you.
I think people often approach brotherhood as they would approach finding friends. Go find people who like the same things you do and then build a relationship with each other based around those shared interests. Brotherhood goes much deeper than that.
I met one of my closest brothers at Send Network Orientation a few years ago. We stayed up until 3 a.m., talking about race and the difference between the suburbs and the city. If you look at us, we are totally different. We had a different upbringing, and we are from very different areas. What brought us together was being vulnerable with each other. Vulnerability is scary because you are exposing your weaknesses to other people. There is risk, but it is worth it. Spiritual brothers may not come from the same place, but they are going to the same place.
2. Brotherhood is easy.
Building brotherhood for yourself will be one of the most difficult parts of planting your church. Our natural tendency is to do everything we can to protect and conceal the sin inside us. The Gospel of John says, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Brotherhood is about exposing that darkness. It’s about actually being known. The difference between a brother and friend is that a brother has seen you through every awkward stage, every win, every loss, and every embarrassing moment. That’s something that really bonds you together.
Something special with brotherhood has happened in St. Louis. Noah Oldham, our Send City Coordinator, has done a great job creating a culture where we aren’t just trading stats, but we’re really getting to know each other. We have an environment where someone can feel comfortable saying, “No one at my church is getting saved, I need prayer.” We have this unspoken feeling that “if you are winning, I am winning. If you are succeeding, I am succeeding.”
3. Brotherhood is safe.
Brotherhood comes with risks. Part of my story is about being burned. I invited people in that I thought were brothers, but they took what they knew about me and turned it against me. You’ve probably experienced something like this, and you’re probably very familiar to the season of depression, discouragement, and loneliness that followed that experience. God has redeemed this area of my life through the brotherhood I’ve found in the Send St. Louis Network, and I am pumped to tell you that the risk really is worth it.
When I open up to others, I am allowing for the possibility of them thinking I am not a good husband, father, or pastor. But letting someone share their sin, and loving them past that, creates room for them to look past your flaws and love you for you.
If we don’t have people helping us fight our sins, we are losing the fight. Maybe you think you’re OK without it, but were we meant to be just OK? Being just OK doesn’t have long-term strength, vitality, or maturity. Creating brotherhood requires resilience.
If you aren’t willing to risk something, you will never have someone in the foxhole with you, and you will never have a brother. I have been in ministry long enough to know that life is going to break everyone. Everyone will deal with marital issues, failed relationships, loneliness, and other failures. I think the biggest indicator of longevity in ministry is whether or not you have some brothers. If you don’t have brothers, you are doing something less than pastoral ministry.
The value of a different perspective
One of the things I have learned is that, sometimes, other people can see around corners we haven’t been around yet ourselves. They have a unique angle and approach to my issues, and if I can tap into their perspectives, I can get the help and encouragement I need. Brotherhood helps us avoid mistakes and the pain caused by them.
I love the core values of the Send Network: kingdom, multiplication, and brotherhood. It’s too easy to get isolated. Isolation will only lead to a generation of charismatic and talented burn-outs who will eventually become disqualified from pastoral ministry. If you aren’t interested in brotherhood, you are most likely in the wrong network.
Nobody has rock star status, regardless how much success they have. Everyone in our brotherhood stands on level footing. It’s cool to be around people who have had greater success than me in church planting, who find value in what I have to bring to the table. Together we are changing the spiritual trajectory of an entire continent.
That’s more than any of us can do alone. We need each other, so let’s be a network that builds the brotherhood we all want and need.
Published March 14, 2018